Saturday, March 28, 2009

I'm a Junkie

A green smoothie junkie, that is.

Sara (The Happy Foody) turned me on to the green smoothie concept, which is basically: get all your daily servings of fruits and vegetables in one go in a smoothie that tastes like dessert. Boost health! Get shiny hair! Improve digestion! Fight free radicals! Sounds good to me, you know?

So several weeks ago I started with a parsley-blueberry-apple smoothie, thinned with plain water. It tasted so clean and fresh and delicious that I kept right on, making another one each day. I love strawberries, so I started adding those, and oranges, and bananas (which I HATE, but I wanted something smooth and creamy-textured). I felt incredibly healthy and awake and great after just a few days. And then something awful happened. I ran out of greens, and had to go like three days without a green smoothie. It was terrible. Terrible!!

I finally got some more greens (2 pounds of organic spinach, which is like half a bushel, no lie -- it's a HUGE amount) and a bunch of other stuff, and made a green smoothie first thing when I came home from the store. It was a total revelation, and let me tell you why:

I've been trying to figure out a way to get myself to eat avocado. The texture massively squicks me out, and the flavor isn't my favorite either, so despite the fact that I know avocados are one of the healthiest foods you can possibly eat, I just haven't been able to get over my general feeling of yuckiness toward them. But I thought to myself, "They don't have a very strong flavor... and they're definitely creamy... what if I used them instead of banana in my green smoothies?" Best idea I've ever had. Seriously. So here's what was in that smoothie (and, uh, pretty much all my smoothies since then):

2 kiwis
1/2 a medium avocado
3 huge handfuls baby spinach
2 or 3 big handfuls mixed frozen fruit (includes strawberries, mango, pineapple, and peaches)
1 t. raw local honey
enough water to blend

I don't know if I can describe how good this smoothie is. It might sound strange, but it tastes like an umbrella drink you'd sip by the pool in Cabo, y'all. The pineapple and mango come right to the front -- if your eyes were closed I guarantee you'd never guess it had anything remotely vegetable-related in it.

I'm planning on doing a detox/cleanse with the green smoothies sometime in April. Has anyone else done one like it? I want to make sure I'm getting all the nutrition I need. Can anybody see gaps that I'll need to fill, if I'm having smoothies like the one above? Let me know.

Head over to Happy Foody and take the Green Smoothie Challenge, why dontcha?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Making Your Own EVERYTHING

A friend asked me a few days ago, "So, Laura, is there anything you're not making right now?" And the answer to that is pretty much no. Here's what's on the list:

Toothpaste: Thanks to "Seeking the Old Paths" for this awesome recipe. Super-simple, too. I tweaked it a bit -- equal parts coconut oil and baking soda, plus spearmint oil and tea tree oil for flavor, and xylitol (a non-nutritive sugar alcohol that the bacteria in your mouth can't use) for sweetness. I'm putting it in a little half-pint glass jar and just dipping my toothbrush into it. It's a little salty-tasting but I like the creaminess of the coconut oil. It's nice, and let me tell you, my teeth are insanely clean-feeling when I use it!

Shampoo and "conditioner": inspired by, who else, but Little House in the Suburbs. The shampoo is just soap and water, blended up with olive oil and some essential oils. The conditioner is a mix of apple cider vinegar and water in a squirt bottle. I'll let you know how these work when I run out of my regular stuff.

Basil-rosemary sugar scrub: another Little House recipe. Mine wound up being about 1/4 cup powdered herbs, 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup olive oil, and 30 drops or so of tea tree oil. Can you tell I'm obsessed with the tea tree oil? I just found a great price for it online, too. Fab. Just used the scrub on my face and it feels amazingly smooth and not the least bit greasy. I'm already in love.

Anti-perspirant/deodorant: Yes, I'm totally serious. Yet another Little House concoction, made all the more brilliant by the fact that you put it in your old deodorant container. Luuuurrrve this idea -- cramming aluminum in my pores day after day kinda freaks me out, honestly, so I'm stoked about not having to use commercial deo anymore. It's just baking soda, cornstarch, anti-bac essential oils (geranium, tea tree, etc.), and some coconut oil. Easy-peasy.

Plus, I'm using coconut oil for face moisturizer (I have combination skin that's pretty blemish-prone, and it works beautifully for me), and making my own soap is on the horizon.

Man, I just love NOT having to buy stuff. Saving money, AND cutting chemicals out of my life at the same time? Yes, please!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Cleaning chemicals, generally speaking, are bad. They give off nasty fumes, they're expensive, the packaging is wasteful. Manufacturing them can be pretty harmful to the environment. Some companies are getting the message that a lot of us are trying to get rid of the chemicals in our lives, and so they're making eco-friendly cleaners with minimal packaging. This is great! But those cleaners are still really expensive -- sometimes as much as $4 or $5 per bottle!

So what can you do? Why, make your own, of course! All of these cleaners cost just pennies to make and work every bit as well as commercial cleaners -- plus, I can clean my entire house with just these three cleaners. To get started, you'll need a spray bottle or two and a shaker-top jar, and you're set!

Glass cleaner: equal parts white vinegar and water. It's best to use newspaper or newsprint to wipe the glass -- I don't know why, but it scrubs really well and leaves the glass streak- and lint-free. Smells a bit like a pickle, but the smell dissipates once it's dry.

All-purpose cleaner: 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup white vinegar, a pump of dish soap (hand washing soap, NOT dishwasher detergent), 20 or so drops of tea tree oil if you like. Put this all in a spray bottle and fill it up with water. It's a fantastic bathroom cleaner -- I used it to clean my old dirty tile in my shower and the tiles are, I'm telling you, gleaming. Spray on surfaces until they're very wet, let sit for a few minutes, and scrub gently with a wet scrubbie sponge. No need to rinse unless you're using it on food-prep surfaces. Can be boosted with the soft scrub cleaner below for extra-tough stains.

Soft scrub cleaner: 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup baking soda, a few drops essential oil if you like. Mix in a shaker-top jar and sprinkle onto surfaces as needed. You can mix it with glycerin, dish soap, or Dr. Bronners to make a liquid soft scrub, but I'd recommend mixing it as you clean instead of all at once.

Note: Borax is available in grocery and hardware stores. I buy white vinegar in gallon jugs and baking soda in a five-pound bag for next to nothing at Sam's Club (a warehouse store).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Thrifty Linkage!

OK, darlins. Lately I've been obsessively trawling Ye Olde Intertoobz for some delicious and frugal recipes, and boy howdy, have I ever found some GREAT ones! Yowza! So instead of keeping these gems all to myself I figured I'd pass the love along. Here are a few of my finds:

1. Brown rice patties from "Beauty that Moves." I can imagine these with a great big crunchy salad, or on top of a big bowl of Cuban red beans, or even as a quickie breakfast on the run! Delicious. Made them today, and they're so simple -- crunchy on the outside and warm and almost creamy inside! You could seriously do a hundred variations on these. Roasted garlic with some finely chopped greens. Minced jalapeno and cumin seeds with some cheddar. Shredded apples with the shredded carrot and onion. And on and on!

2. Black bean burgers from I made these yesterday (a HUGE batch, from dry beans that I cooked in the Crockie, natch) and froze them. Great for lunches. My little tip -- lightly dust with a mix of cornmeal and flour before you fry these up, and you'll avoid the dreaded Disintegrating Veggie Burger Syndrome.

3. Snobby Joes from "Happy Foody." One of my new favorite food blogs -- this is one awesome vegan, dreadlock-sporting, natural-living Christian mama! Snobby Joes are a vegan variation on sloppy joes, obviously -- made of
lentils of all things! This is on the list for this week.

You might notice something about these three recipes. They're all vegetarian! Why? Well, first of all, everyone is feeling the economic pinch these days, and one of the quickest ways to alleviate that pinch is to reduce the amount of meat you consume. Just think of how much money you'd save if you cut out meat, which usually costs between $4 and $10 per pound, from your weeknight meals and substituted whole grains, fresh vegetables, eggs, and legumes, like the recipes above!

Secondly, we in the U.S.just eat way too much meat. We're eating from preference and habit, not need. Did any of y’all ever read the "Little House" books? At one point, Pa says to Ma that one of his goals with farming is to get to the point where they can eat beef once a week. Once a week! And we don’t even have to go back that far to see how much our diets have changed! My grandmother could stretch a pound of hamburger into four meals for four people! But nowadays, most of us eat WAY more (mostly meat-based) protein than we need, while failing to get enough health-boosting fiber, vegetables, and fruit. So, for the sake of health, it would be wise to eat less meat so that we can eat more whole grains, vegetables and fruit, right? Right.

And for the sake of space, I won’t even get into the discussion of how factory farming impacts God’s creation. Suffice it to say, growing plants uses much less of the resources of the land than huge feed lots do. If you’d like more info on this aspect of reducing meat consumption, check out THIS great article, from The Baptist Standard, of all places.

Give it a try, will ya? I'm not saying y'all need to become vegans, like, this week or whatever. But why not replace meat with beans or veggies or whole grains just one meal a week? Wherever you are with meat consumption, take just one step toward a more plant-based diet. Your body, and your wallet, will thank you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


(Or: Adventures With Bacteria!)

Dear Friends,

You are all idiots. Or at least that's what I'm going to tell myself for the purposes of the first part of this post, because it's going to be a pictorial, step-by-step guide to making your very own homemade yogurt, and the only reason anyone would need such a guide is if he or she were an idiot, because it is JUST THAT STINKING EASY, PEOPLE. But humor me.

First. Obtain a crock pot. Place into said crock pot a half-gallon (two quarts, four pints, eight cups) of milk. Any kind you like. Go ahead.

Shout-out to my college dorm neighbor, Jenn, who got two of these as wedding presents and gave me one! Thanks, Jenn!

Turn your crock pot to low. I will demonstrate:

Yet another of my needlessly complicated culinary techniques. Tony Bourdain's got nothin' on me.

Got it? OK. Now, let the milk heat on low for three hours. Then unplug the crock pot.

Sigh... this was so hard, you guys. Maybe it's too difficult for you?

Clear enough? Great. Now, let the milk slowly cool for about three MORE hours.

Now obtain a half-cup of powdered milk. This is not strictly necessary, but it makes the yogurt thicker. And thick is good.

Shut up, I am fully aware that this is a 1/4 cup measure. My half cup was in the dishwasher. So sue me.

A teeny-tiny six-ounce cup of plain, unflavored yogurt, your favorite variety. I happen to luuurve this here Brown Cow cream top kind. It's so delicious it makes my eyes roll back in my head.

I doooooo, cherish yoooooooou...

And stir them together in a bowl with some of the milk from the crock pot, thusly:

Isn't my disgustingly stained rubber spatula... well... disgusting? I blame Indian food. Curse you, turmeric!!

Now. Here comes the tough part. Pour the yogurt mixture back into the milk, and stir it gently. Wrap your crock pot in a great big bath towel (or two, if your house gets really cold at night).

Cozy! (And boy, the edge of that counter's pretty over-exposed, isn't it? Hello, white balance!)

And walk away. That's right. Just walk away. Pretend that crock pot doesn't exist for the next twelve hours, or even the next eighteen hours. And then the next day, unwrap that lovely present, take the lid off, and squeal like a little girl, because you just made homemade yogurt. Put in mason jars or your old yogurt containers, refrigerate, and use within a week.

Ah, hippie-tacular. Homemade yogurt, represent! Woo-wooo!!

Now, for the non-dairy portion of this post. Check out THIS super-simple recipe for homemade almond milk.

"Homemade almond milk, Laura?"
you might ask. "I thought almond milk was for, like, weirdo hippie vegans from 1968 who never shave their pits!"

Well, at one time, my friend, I felt the same way that you do. Also, ew.

But I couldn't have been more wrong! You know who almond milk is for? It is for ME, you guys. This stuff is crazy good heated up with a smidge of honey, poured over cereal, as ice cream... mmmmmm.... it's so rich and almondy and creamy, and honestly, how did I ever get to be twenty *mumble mumble* years old without ever tasting this stuff?? It's rockin. PLUS, the ground almonds left over from the almond-milk-making process... well, I'm dreaming of almond macaroons, or some sort of crispy tuile, or a fruit tart with an almond crust? YES!

Now, friends, go and be fruitful and multiply (good) bacteria!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Guess What I Did

So, yesterday mid-afternoon, like a moron, I started making bread. Why is that so bad? Because I had a wedding to go to downtown at 5:00... which meant I had to leave the house at 4:15 at the latest. I completely forgot about it (the bread, not the wedding) until I was running around my house, dressed and made up, shutting lights off. I looked into my kitchen, and there on the counter was a lump of dough, way more than doubled in size, bone dry on the outside. AUGH. I scraped it into a bowl, chucked it into the fridge, threw a wet towel over the top of it, and ran out the door.

This morning I pulled the bowl out of the fridge and peeked at the dough with no small amount of trepidation. Whew! Slightly risen, which is just what I wanted to see. I tipped it back out onto the counter, cut it in half, and let it come to a manageable temperature for an hour or so. I shaped the loaves and let them rise for, like, three hours, which is how long it took for them to rise to an inch above the pans. Yow.

Anyway, disaster averted, which was awesome, because if there's anything in the world I HATE, it's throwing away food. Not the prettiest bread I ever made, but it worked, and it's still darn tasty if I do say so myself.

So now you know. You can rescue bread even if you forget about it, leave it out uncovered so it gets all dessicated and cracked, and end up having to leave it until the next day.